Beware the Might of the Blizzard

Imagine if you will - Marvel comics decides to leave the convention circuit and hold their own event, a Marvel Con. A two-day show where they make all their new announcements, have only their business partners on display and charge $100 per ticket for the show… would anyone come? Would anyone drive from L.A. to Anaheim to see the show? How about coming from out of state? Out of the country? Would the media even care?

Two weekends ago, still weary from Comic-Con, I wandered over to my first ever BlizzCon. Blizzard Entertainment is the maker of "World of Warcraft," "Starcraft," "Diablo" and more. There are over nine million people playing "Warcraft" on-line - that's more than the population of many small countries. When the expansion pack, "Burning Crusades," came out over 2.4 million copies sold with in the first 24 hours. That's more than any other video game had sold in their first month.

I am one of those 9 million people. Back in March an old friend of mine called me up and said I needed to buy the game so we could play together. I did just that and now I've got a handful of characters running around the on-line world. So when I learned of BlizzCon, I wanted to go.

I arrived at the Anaheim Convention Center, parked and headed into the con not expecting too much. What I found were a ton of eager fans waiting for the show to open. The weekend was a sellout and the attendees were coming from all over the world. The show actually sold out in only three days. I got my badge and my swag bag and what a bag it was: a t-shirt, coasters, buttons, magnets, bookmarks, coupons and the most important thing - a card with the codes to unlock a special costume (a murloc suit) your character can wear in the game and a code to get a special beta test program in the future. When I got home I looked on eBay and found the card was selling for over $300 and climbing.

When I got my badge, I was told that I probably wanted to head into the main hall and get a seat for the opening ceremonies. I took the advice and headed right to the stage area. It wasn't the rows and rows of chairs that surprised me, it was the fact that these chairs were all full. More than twenty minutes before the opening ceremonies were scheduled, fans were in their seats ready. I found an open spot on the edge over in the press area and waited, noticing that a crowd was starting to build around the outer edges. If I had to guess, this was at least three times bigger than the largest panel at Comic-Con. The opening ceremonies where short, but fun. We were presented first with some stats on how Blizzard was doing and they talked about a game tournament that was held in Seoul Korea - in the Olympic stadium.

We got to see the trailer for the recently announced "Starcraft II" release and then the big announcement came - a second expansion for "Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King." Just about every new feature got a rousing cheer from the crowd. For those of you who play the game, here is the quick run down:

  • Level cap raised to 80
  • New continent of Northrend
  • New Death Knight – Hero Class
  • New profession – transcription
  • Changeable hairstyles (this got a huge cheer)
  • New dances (another huge cheer)
  • New battlegrounds

They also announced prior to the expansion pack that they will be adding a guild bank feature, an in-game voice chat feature and a new raid instance in the Ghostlands.

Once the opening ceremonies were complete, I headed out to look in on the vendors. What I found were business partners of Blizzard. Dell computers had banks of machines set up where you could play the new Starcraft or Warcraft releases. DC Comics was there with Jim Lee signing posters for the upcoming new "World of Warcraft" comic series. Tokyopop was there showing their books and Brady Games had their wares on display. There was a riding bull set up, which I kept a distance from. Also, there were two areas where you could go to buy Blizzard products and the line to get t-shirts, cards etc was so long that I couldn't even see the products from where I was.

The rest of the weekend was filled with panels discussing the new releases, certain areas of the game such as professions and classes and even player-versus-player tournaments. Also featured were comedian Jay Mohr, a rather snazzy costume contest, an orchestra playing music from the game and of course: Level 70 Elite Tauren Chieftain.

This was a fun, well-organized gathering of extremely enthusiastic fans and the company they are dedicated to. And as a comic writer, I can only hope that those 9 million residents of Azeroth find the new series from DC Comics and that leads them to other comics to read - because nine million enthusiastic fans would do wonders for any industry.

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